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LPC claims CCG's app deal will take prescriptions away from pharmacies

The Healthera app will remind patients exactly when to take their medication
The Healthera app will remind patients exactly when to take their medication

A clinical commissioning group’s (CCG) decision to partner with an app provider will take prescriptions away from pharmacies, a local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) has warned.

NHS Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley CCG has partnered with digital health company Healthera, to provide mobile-based repeat prescription ordering and tracking for over 140,000 patients registered with 22 GP surgeries in the area.

As of October 1, patients will be able to order their prescription from their GP and collect it from over 60 participating pharmacies – both multiple and independent branches in the area. Pharmacies will have full visibility of the prescriptions ordering process, and be able to communicate with patients via a two-way messaging service on the app, the CCG told C+D last month.

The NHS-approved app will use the CCG's 'prescription ordering direct' service to allow patients to “request and receive regular prescription medicine without the need to visit their GP surgery each time they need it”, according to the CCG's website. It will also allow patients to book in for flu vaccinations and medication reviews, the CCG told C+D.

Mike Keen, CEO of Kent LPC, said he wrote to pharmacies in the area about the app, as “the CCG decided to do this unilaterally – the decision was not taken in conjunction with the LPC”.

The nature of the app means that prescriptions are ordered directly from a GP surgery or via an online pharmacy model, he claimed, “which takes prescriptions away from pharmacies”.

“It’s a commercial decision and I’m not going to advise pharmacies one way or the other,” Mr Keen added.

However, “it is important that pharmacies look at the marketplace and see what’s on offer. This app is one of a number”.

In response, the CCG said it did not consult with the LPC as its partnership with Healthera is “an addition” to its existing ordering service, and it “didn't feel it was necessary”.

“Empowering” community pharmacy

Healthera said the move would “empower” community pharmacies to play a more active role in patient healthcare, while also reducing workload.

Quintus Liu, CEO of Healthera, claimed the app helps pharmacies “streamline their workflow”, and said he is “confident the service will quickly demonstrate further reductions in medicines wastage while increasing patient satisfaction”.

Once patients are switched to the app they will have the choice to collect their prescription from any listed pharmacy – including their existing pharmacy. However, once the CCG has completed the migration, a patient's “previous arrangement for managed repeat [prescriptions] will no longer be accepted”, Mr Liu told C+D.

CCG benefits

Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley CCG said the app will also “remind patients exactly when to take their medication, reducing the risks and associated problems of medication non-compliance”.

“The biggest cost of the [prescription ordering] service is staff wages,” Luke Tate, prescription ordering direct manager at the CCG told C+D.

“By using innovative technology such as Healthera, we can improve the efficiencies of our service, allowing us to open up the service to more practices and patients in our CCG.”

15 Comments
Question: 
Has your pharmacy signed up to a repeat prescription app?

Raj Patel,

still waiting for healthera to confirm who is the data controller?  seen their t's & c's, be very carfeful, think we know the answer and where this will eventually go

Quintus Liu, Senior Management

Patients will always own their data, and we will never do anything with their data without their explict permission - it's the ethos behind what we do! It's an assurance.

Raj Patel,

Qunitus, you don't appear to have answered the question,,,,who is the data controller?  I'm sure the patient will always own their own data (try doing otherwise) but you appear to have the relationship and data with the end user when they register as part of that registration?  The pharmacy loses that.  Then what in the future when the vc's want they pay off?  I was told, maybe incorrectly, that you also offer pharmacies the option of being a 'premium choice' if pay more?

Barry Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Mike Keen, CEO of Kent LPC, said "the nature of the app means that prescriptions are ordered directly from a GP surgery or via an online pharmacy model, he claimed, “which takes prescriptions away from pharmacies”.

Letter from CCG.

Dear LPCs - wake up - this is the future! https://digital.nhs.uk/blog/transformation-blog

So help your contractors meet the challenge.

Overworked Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

“play a more active role in patient healthcare” by doing what Mr Liu? Are we going to get any funding towards this “active role”? As money from dispensing and cuts are hitting hard? Maybe our active role should be encouraging patients to ditch worthless apps, and walk to the surgery where possible, and collect their own medicines from their local pharmacies. Rather than encouraging patients to sit at home and order from a smartphone at the touch of a button. Thought the government wanted to decrease those leading sedentary lifestyles?

Quintus Liu, Senior Management

 

Currently Healthera allows you to promote and take bookings for your NHS and privately paid clinical services. We also have lots of exciting features planned to help community pharmacies increase their revenue.

You have to realize that consumers (patients) are going to expect a faster, more streamlined service from their pharmacy, just like they already do with their movies, taxis, and shopping.

They’re going to want to order from an app one way or another, so why not make sure they're using Healthera to order to YOUR pharmacy, rather than to a distance-seller? Out of all the pharmacy apps in the market, we are the only one that looks out for community pharmacies. That's exactly why the CCG chose us.

Jeff Jobs, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Have to agree with Quintus here. The supposed 'Overworked Pharmacist' needs to take a step back and think for a minute. Perhaps take a time-out from checking to see if the sticky label matches the box it's on?

These apps take the time burden away from managing patient's repeat requests, meaning less work for them.

Moan all you want about being 'overworked', but at the end of the day, the government doesn't care about you or high street pharmacy. The funding cuts are clear evidence of this. It won't be long till high street pharmacy dies a death completley. 

Technology/apps are coming along to to help pharmacies and all you do is see it as another opportunity to moan about how hard up you are?

No wonder pharmacy/NHS in general is at least 15 years behind most other sectors in terms of technology.

A.S. Singh, Community pharmacist

Pharmacies need not worry - this app is a tool for ordering and not direction of prescriptions away from the pharmacy.

Quintus Liu, Senior Management

That is correct. In fact, Healthera will only show the pharmacies near a patient. We firmly believe that local pharmacies offer far better services to the patient than online pharmacies. It what makes the solution great!

S D, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Hello Mr Liu. This is a very interesting comment. You are reducing patient choice by only allowing visibility of local Pharmacies due to your belief "they offer a far better service". What do the CMA think  about you restricting the marketplace and offering restricted choice to patients based on your personal beliefs? What evidence do you have to support these beliefs? I  am really interested to hear your views on this and how you can justify restricting competition. It wasn't too long ago that Lloyds pharmacy fell foul of the CMA by restricting patient choice in collusion with another pharmacy - how is this any different? 

Quintus Liu, Senior Management

Healthera allows any certified pharmacy to register on the platform and serve the patients they wish. Your strawman argument won’t work here. I can only speak for our platform, and over 98% of our app’s patients happen to have chose a local pharmacy, even if we do also have around 10 online pharmacies. We’ll work with anyone committed to providing great services to patients - pharmacies or CCG’s. 

Stephen Eggleston, Community pharmacist

I find it difficult to argue against any system that reduces over-ordering. However, if the arguement is that it will reduce staff costs for the CCG (and ultimately, the GPs) I m unclear how this will work, given it will still require somebody to generate the prescription and someone to authorise it. If they want to save on manpower, why not use repeat dispensing (electronically, preferably). Once everyone understands how it works, it's a good system. Also, it doesn't involve the CCG giving a pile of cash to an app developer just to reinvent the wheel

Quintus Liu, Senior Management

The POD has been consolidating the work of generating prescriptions for 10 surgeries, and it's already taken so much load off the GP's.

The downside is, there is an ENORMOUS volume of calls when you're serving over 100,000 patients. On some days patients have to wait up to 40 minutes before speaking to someone. The app reminds patients exactly when to order, and lets them order with a few taps. The POD staff then processes the prescription in a matter of seconds, rather than needing to constantly talk on the phone. This isn't re-inventing the wheel: we're building the Tesla of pharmacy IT!

Dave Downham, Manager

If you're Tesla, does that me you smoke Mary Jane while wanting to fly to the moon after you've finished calling voluntary rescue workers kiddie fiddlers, leading to your senior staff walking out?

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

Briliant! The profession is improving day by day

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